Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Romans 12:17-19 (NASB)
There are times in relationships of all kinds that we experience being hurt by people we care about. When were are slightly hurt by them we tend to brush it off or chalk it up to “having a bad day” or something like that. However, when we are seriously hurt by other people in our lives we are often at a loss as to what to do with our emotional response to that wound.
I was once rejected by a close friend and I spent day and weeks wondering what I did to cause her to cut me out of her life. Was I a bad friend? Did I do or say something she could not accept? Was it something so great that it could not be forgiven?
When my first husband left me I wondered what I did wrong to cause him to choose someone else over me. I was a very young Christian and I did not know much about the Bible at that time. I made many, many mistakes in how I handled the situation. I tried to make all sorts of bargains with God and with myself to try to get my husband to come back home. At some point I must have begged and groveled because I believe so strongly that marriage is forever.
I was very focused on how this would look to my unregenerate friends and family, because we had made no secret of our conversion to Christianity from Catholicism. Some of my motives were very wrong for wanting him to come back home and reconcile the relationship. There was little focus on God and His glory, it was much more about me and my desires. Of course, I knew that God hates divorce and I certainly didn’t want one, but I confessed after a time that my desires for reconciliation were more about me and not quite as much about God’s glory as they should have been.
When I realized I could not control what my then husband did with respect to the marriage, I began to demonstrate sinful anger, outrage that he would do this to me, disgust at his behavior and I wanted to inflict on him the pain he had inflicted upon me. I wanted to hurt him and as the saying goes, “hit him where he lived.”
This is the common response to hurt and pain. We are all at times tempted to return evil for evil, sin for sin, and pain for pain. It is in our human nature to want to strike back and avenge ourselves. It goes very much against the grain for us to sit back and do nothing when we have been hurt even a little bit. The desire for revenge is even more ingrained when we have been deeply hurt.
This is why passages like Romans 12:17-19 are critical for you and I to commit to memory and to make application of in daily life. To set aside the desire to avenge ourselves is the godly response to these kinds of assaults. We can be confident that our loving Father is completely aware of the things that are done to His children, and that He will most certainly take revenge on those who have harmed His own.
The human response to that truth is “Yay!” You may find yourself rejoicing, knowing that one day he or she will get what is coming to them, but even in this God cautions us to respond rightly.
Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; or the LORD will see it and be displeased, and turn His anger away from him. Proverbs 27:17-18 (NASB)
The right response of the Christian is to pray for those who have hurt them. Praying for them to repent of their wickedness is what will glorify God. Praying they turn from sin and make a new direction in their life that will bring about the peaceable fruit of righteousness will honor God and bring you peace in your own heart.
“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27-28 (NASB)
If a Christian refuses to pray for their enemy, how can they reflect Christ in their life? The model that He left for us was to forgive those who hurt us and to forgive abundantly; the way that we have been forgiven by Him. This does not mean we put ourselves in harms way again, or that we necessarily resume the friendship we had with the person, as in my first example. We are to be wise and discerning as well as forgiving.
In a relationship such as a marriage, even in cases of adultery the goal is always forgiveness and reconciliation with the spouse. Trust must be earned and abundant discernment is needed in these situations, but a marriage truly can be put back together when forgiveness has taken place. When both people are willing to do what glorifies God and take every step that is necessary to right the wrongs that have been done, a wonderful and beautiful marriage will be the result.
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